Saturday, May 4, 2019

Meeting of April 29, 2019


If Beale Street Could Talk

Our April meeting was hosted by Jane.  Present were Beth, Carla, Colette, Jane, Janet, Linda, Michèle and Shirley.  Jane had a very nice variety of cheeses, parmesan crusted cold cuts, her great pickled veggies and baguette stuffed with olives.  In honour of Tish's given name, Jane made a Clementine cake that was quite wonderful.  As usual red and white wine was served and tea.  

We discussed Beth's book choice If Beale Street Could Talk written by the American author James Baldwin.  Mr. Baldwin, having had a difficult childhood growing up in Harlem with a demanding step-father and multiple siblings escaped his family life when he could, going to Greenwich Village where he met artists and writers.  He wrote several short stories and published his first book Go Tell it on the Mountain in 1953 when he was 29 years old.  This first book was semi-autobiographical and referred to religion and life as a black person in Harlem.  Mr. Baldwin published over 20 books, novels, essays and plays,  He was also well known as an activist travelling back to the United States from France where he lived for several years, to participate in activities of the civil rights movement.  He was well known and considered an important American author.

If Beale Street Could Talk was published in 1974 and is the love story of Fonny and Tish. Fonny is falsely accused of rape and finds himself in jail as Tish waits for the birth of their first child.  Strong family ties and the love between the young couple and their family allow them to survive even though racism flourishes in New York and leaves Fonny jailed and his family desperately trying to find hard, believable evidence to free him.  There is despair and rage in the writing of this novel but there is also love and hope.

Everyone liked this book, found the story beautiful but emotionally raw.  Many found that the story tore at their soul, showed us how injustice was prevalent in the U.S. and still is.  We also discussed how, though more hidden and less reported, such injustices existed in our own country, notably in Nova Scotia's Africville in the 1900's and now in many areas of our large cities such as Toronto.  We also talked about the injustices towards our own indigenous people.

The ending is ambiguous.  We are not sure if Fonny is set free or has to stay in jail.  It is an ambiguity that mirrors life in the black community.

Thank you Beth for a great book choice that brought a lot of discussion and reflection.  We also talked about the differences between the book and the movie that came out in 2018. 

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